A New Generation of PLCs Takes on Machine Builder Challenges

by | Sep 6, 2023 | Control & Safety Systems, Cybersecurity, Industrial IoT | 0 comments

PLCs are such time-honored technology that it is easy for users to be lulled into a sense of false comfort that they can simply continue to rely on the same solutions they’ve used for decades. While some PLCs continue to function as solid workhorses, many users, particularly post-pandemic, have learned hard lessons that their traditional control systems aren’t ready to deal with today’s industrial challenges like supply chain issues, programmer and personnel shortage, and constant attacks by hackers. These new demands are putting huge pressures on machine builders to embrace innovative solutions.

Due to unpredictable supply chains, OEMs can design-in parts that suddenly become unavailable and, since their current control systems are proprietary, no alternatives fit the design. These same proprietary control systems can become outdated, and the OEM is stuck with outmoded technology that can’t compete.

The personnel shortage is a pain for everyone right now, but even when the hiring landscape eventually improves, the fact is the new generation of programmers has different experience, training and digital expectations than the old guard who are in the process of retiring. This can make them challenging to hire, either because of lack of appropriate skills or lack of interest in the job.

And as for today’s ever-present threat of hackers, most traditional PLCs simply have limited security built in. They were designed for a time when cybersecurity was thought to be as simple as air-gapping your controller and the need for constantly connected control systems was unimaginable.

Fortunately, a new generation of PLC technology designed specifically to address modern industrial requirements is emerging, represented by the award-winning Emerson PACSystems™ CPE200 compact PLC/PAC. The PACSystems CPE200 offers machine builders the rare quality of flexibility, allowing them to be prepared for whatever comes, while staying on time and on budget.

Creating flexibility in design for machine builders, the PACSystems solution offers open-standards communications, which speeds integration of components and reduces the likelihood of bugs in product interfaces. The deterministic controls have native support for multiple industrial standard protocols including OPC UA Secure, PROFINET, Modbus, DNP3, and more. Leveraging an optional Connext server, over 20 additional protocols are supported, giving OEMs increased flexibility with support for Ethernet/IP, BACNet, MQTT, and  more. On top of that, MTP Integration with DCS, like DeltaV, is also included. This exceptional flexibility gives OEMs and users many options in design and use that ultimately save time, money and avoid obsolescence.

In addition to open communications, the PACSystems CPE200 also includes open programming. The PACSystems CPE200 is PLC Open and PLC Open Motion compliant. Naturally, this means the PLC can be programmed in the standard IEC 6113 languages including LD, FB and FBD, but at the same time, it can also be programmed natively in C. Since C is still one of the most popular programming languages among the current generation of programmers, this flexibility both expands the labor pool and shortens the learning curve for new hires. In addition, edge solutions now support additional modern languages used for AI and ML applications like C++ and Python.

Unlike many other PLCs, the PACSystems new generation solution follows a defense-in-depth strategy, with multiple built-in layers of security to meet emerging threats and application security needs. These layers of security include provisions in hardware, runtime firmware, machine or process application and intellectual property security, while integrated OPC UA secure communications allows control and monitoring from anywhere with the confidence of authenticated, authorized, and encrypted data transfer. This secure-by-design configuration is included out-of-the-box.

The flexibility continues with the fact that all PACSystems controllers have a common runtime and are all programmed by PAC Machine Edition, minimizing the learning curve. Machine builders can change hardware families without even recompiling IEC-language programs. User-Defined data Types (UDTs) and User-Defined Function Blocks (UDFBs) utilize PAC Machine Edition’s integrated Toolchest utility for easy code standardization and reuse. Because the PACSystems CPE200 is part of a total family of automation products; PLCs from micro to large, a line of advanced edge solutions, I/O and networking devices, motion control, safety systems, HMIs, and advanced automation, visualization, and analytics software, machine builders have a wide range of tools with which to design and scale systems – and can change hardware with one click. For users, Emerson’s wide range of compatible sensors and pneumatics further extend solution flexibility and useability.

The PACSystems CPE200 also includes such advantages as standard high-speed gigabit ethernet interfaces, tool-less system commissioning and configuration, communications solutions that can deliver sanitized data in context, and native access to analytics like machine learning and AI.

Emerson’s PLC technology is as new and modern as today’s industrial challenges and aspirations, providing machine builders with everything they need to create the systems of today and tomorrow – on time and on budget.

Find out what you can do with the PACSystems CPE200 in your application here.

And watch the video below to learn more.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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